I’m always on the hunt for word games to incorporate into my English classroom. So when a brand new game released by the same folks who brought us Exploding Kittens was announced, I got excited. This game caught my attention because it emphasizes plain speak, i.e. single syllable words, and lets players act goofy. In Poetry for Neanderthals, players team up and attempt to get their teammates to guess a word on their card within the time limit, but they can’t use complex or multi-syllable words. Once the sand timer runs out, the other team gets a chance.
During the clue giver’s turn, though, the other team holds a large inflatable club over the clue giver and bops them when they break the rules. Using any words that are longer than one syllable or saying any part of the word on the card is off limits. And it always happens, no matter how hard you try to simplify your speech. For example, if I wanted to get my teammates to guess the word “hat,” I could say something like this: “Me wear on my head.”
As much fun as that is, the real strategy in the game happens during a split-second decision each time the clue giver looks at a card. They can choose the easier word (the one on top) or the harder word (the word on bottom), placing the card onto their player board in the 1 Point or 3 Point spot. The tougher word offers more points but usually takes longer than the easier one to guess. The great thing about this mechanism is that even if the clue giver picks the harder word and the team guesses the easy word—but seems miles away from the guessing the complete tougher word—the clue giver can just slide the card to the 1 Point spot, count it, and move on to the next card. Using my earlier example of “hat,” the harder word might have been “top hat,” which my teammates might have struggled to reach after I gave this clue: “real nice, black, me wear on top of head out to dance.” If they say “hat,” I could just move the card to the 1 Point pile and draw a new card.
So if you can’t wait to conk your friends on the head, Poetry for Neanderthals gives you the opportunity you’ve always wanted. The game makes everyone sound just a little dumb and is super fun. The consequences in this game are very slight and the competition fierce, which is a great combination for friends who are out to have a good time and not take themselves too seriously. For some reason it always sounds better to use “me” in the beginning of each sentence than it does to use “I” despite them both being one syllable…strange. Me like this game.
Werewords is a secret-identity update of the “I’m thinking of a word” 20 questions-style game where one player can only answer questions with “yes” and “no.” In Werewords, though, the classic characters in Werewolf appear and throw a wrench in a seemingly mundane game. Plus, you only have 4 minutes to figure out the secret word. To guide all the players from step to step, an app walks the players through the stages so everyone can play a role in Werewords.
During set up, secret identity cards are shuffled, and one is passed to each player. The player who reveals the Mayor will secretly pick a word on the app and move all the “yes,” “no,” “maybe,” and “so close” tokens in front of them. The other players will check their secret identity cards to see which team they are on: Villager or Werewolf. The Villagers want to figure out what the secret word is, and the Werewolf will attempt to thwart the line of questioning. Fortunately, the Villagers are not alone! There is a Seer who will try to steer the line of questioning towards the Mayor’s secret word, but they must do so subtly and masterfully.
The Werewolf and the Seer get an advantage over the Villagers: they get to see the Mayor’s secret word during setup. With that information, they then attempt to thwart or help the Villagers in the 4-minute time limit. But they can’t be too obvious. The Seer and Werewolf must speak cautiously because they don’t want their identity to be discovered because of how the winner is determined. At the end of the game, the table might turn if the Seer and Werewolf weren’t clever and secretive enough. If the Villager team guesses the Mayor’s secret word within the 4 minutes, the Werewolf attempts to guess who they think the Seer is. If they are right, the Werewolf wins the game instead! On the other hand, if the Villagers don’t guess the Mayor’s secret word, the Seer and all the Villagers attempt to guess who they think the Werewolf is. If the majority of players are right, the Villagers win the game!
This game is super easy and dynamic. Like any of the Werewolf games that have come out since Ultimate Werewolf, it is much faster and easier to play with the app running the game. And with each game lasting only 4 minutes, you’ll probably want to play a couple rounds. I’m not the werewolf. Are you?